So far, so good.
After playing two surprisingly physical games against Canada in back-to-back pretournament games in the World Cup of Hockey, Wild veteran Zach Parise said his back is feeling great after skating in his first two games since April 5.
“It was a little bit of a shock to the system to hop right into back-to-back games with travel, but it went really well,” Parise said via phone Monday night after spending the day with Team USA teammates at the Pentagon and Quantico, the FBI’s Training Academy in Virginia.
“I knew that I was OK, but I was still a little nervous for the first game. But after taking some hits and getting into some contact and not having any problem at all, it reassured me that everything is OK.”
Parise, who played much of last season’s second half with a herniated disk, was unable to play during the Wild’s first-round playoff series against the Dallas Stars after aggravating the injury in the 81st regular-season game. Parise rehabbed all summer and was cleared by Wild doctors for the tournament late last month.
He says doctors have told him he’s no more susceptible to a herniated disk than an otherwise healthy person.
Parise scored the Americans’ first goal in an eventual win Friday night.
“That really felt good, and hopefully I can carry that into the tournament,” he said. “I know it’s exhibition, but still mentally in my own mind, it was big to get one after what I went through.”
Parise couldn’t believe the pace of the exhibitions against always-bitter rival Canada.
“It was outrageous, a little different than the Octagon skates,” he said, howling. “It was crazy that we just hopped right into that. It was nuts. I couldn’t believe it. But it was good because you get so consumed by the game, you’re not thinking twice about the injury.”
Parise will spend the season doing preventive treatment on practice days and after games.
“We just want to make sure everything stays where it should be and continues to get better,” Parise said.
Parise and Ryan Suter face Wild teammates Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula and Team Finland in a final pretournament game Tuesday in Washington. The tournament kicks off Saturday afternoon in Toronto with the United States taking on Nino Niederreiter and Team Europe.
In the meantime, Parise had a fun Monday. After practice, U.S. players and staff bussed to Quantico to eat lunch with U.S. Marines before hitting the FBI’s shooting range. Parise shot a Beretta, Colt 45 and various machine guns.
“I never shot a shotgun before. That thing really had a kick to it,” Parise said, laughing.
Afterward, Parise and teammates went to the Pentagon, where they were given a tour and visited the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial.
“That was very sad, but all in all, it’s been a fun time so far and hopefully it’ll be a great tournament,” he said.